More younger, healthier people being laid low by flu this season

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2011, 12:00am

More than a third of severe flu cases this season involve people not suffering any chronic illnesses, government figures show.

Among 82 people admitted to intensive care from January 24 to February 16, 30 had no existing conditions. Of the 30, half were aged 15 to 54, the Food and Health Bureau said in a document presented to the Legislative Council.

Among 12 people who died in this period, three were not suffering any chronic illnesses. The bureau said more young and healthy people were infected, a characteristic of swine flu, the dominant strain this year.

The trend of infections was in line with overseas countries, the paper said. In France, Britain, and Spain, about 70 per cent of cases involve people aged 15 to 54, about 60 to 80 per cent of whom belong to high-risk groups.

Meanwhile, just 10 per cent of children and 24 per cent of health workers had taken the government's flu jab this year, the document said.

Around 46,000 children out of the eligible 428,000 have taken the subsidised flu vaccine this season.

Coverage among the elderly was slightly better - about 266,000 people aged 65 or above, or 29 per cent of those eligible - have been vaccinated.

Hongkongers have been lukewarm about receiving injections, as the vaccine used last year was linked to miscarriages and Guillain-Barr? syndrome, a progressive weakening of the muscles which affects patients' limbs. The government said there was no proof that the swine flu vaccine caused these conditions.

However, this has weakened confidence among pregnant woman - this year only 16 have taken the shots.

The flu infection peak began in late January and is expected to last until mid or late March.

A 79-year-old man with swine flu died in Kwong Wah Hospital yesterday, taking the number of fatalities since late January to 26. There are 19 flu patients in intensive care in public hospitals.

Forty children at a kindergarten in Kwun Tong were affected by a flu outbreak. All are stable.